By Steve Eighinger
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
Quincy Raceways will recognize six track champions -- instead of five -- by the end of the season come late September.
Track officials received word late Thursday from IMCA headquarters in Vinton, Iowa, that with four scheduled shows at the Bullring a sport mod track champ can be crowned.
The sport mods are in action tonight at 8000 Broadway for the second time, with future shows set for Aug. 28 and Sept. 18. Their first appearance was July 3.
Tonight's show will pay $500 to win -- the same as the regular modified division -- and will be draw/redraw. The Aug. 28 and Sept. 18 sport mod shows will be inverts.
This year will be the first time two modified champions have been recognized since 2005, the last season for the old "A" and "B" mod classes.
An average of 15 sport mods would be a healthy number over the final three shows, and if that materializes you can just about bank on the class being added to the 2012 lineup. We might see the crate late models added, too, but that's another subject for another day.
Quincy driver "Clean Livin'" Joe Bliven will be the sport mod points leader entering tonight. Bliven won the July 3 sport mod feature at Quincy. Another Quincy driver, two-time former "B" mod track champ Tony Dunker, is also expected to be in the pits tonight. Dunker was fifth in the July 3 feature.
Tonight: All regular weekly series will be in action tonight, including the late models, whose top five drivers are separated by nine points. Justin Reed (272), Keith Pratt (271) and Lonnie Bailey (270) lead the late model pack of contenders.
The first green flag falls at 6:30 this evening.
Car counts climbing: The last three Sunday nights, all regular weekly shows with no special series appearing, have shown a combined 23 percent increase over the previous three regular weekly events.
The last three weeks have produced an average of 64 cars in the pits, which is noteworthy for two reasons:
1. It is roughly 15 cars above the weekly attendance numbers at the same point in 2010.
2. This is the time of year when all dirt tracks tend to see a decline in cars, largely because some of the racers have run out of money to fix their crashed rides. But in what has become a comeback season at the Bullring, we are seeing a rise in the car counts, and a rather dramatic one.
Word is spreading, slowly but surely, that Quincy is again a viable racing destination. Have you noticed the amount of out-of-town racers who have also been stopping in? That, too, is a good sign.
Comeback, continued: Another important element in this whole "comeback" thing concerns the purses at the Bullring. Ownership has maintained its more-than-fair payouts, even early in the year before the "comeback" began in earnest. Many tracks have been forced to cut purses due to declining numbers and that simply makes a bad situation worse.
Looking ahead: An extremely positive sign about the future of the track concerns the speculation over adding another class (or two) for 2012. If there is talk of expansion -- instead of contraction -- that speaks volumes about what the future holds.
When examining car counts and overall spectator interest, it can be argued the glory years of Quincy Raceways may have come in the mid-2000s. Realistically, we're still a far cry from averaging just under 100 cars a Sunday night with jam-packed stands -- but at least we're heading in the right direction again.